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LloydBrown
06-24-2005, 06:04 AM
Does anybody know how much a publisher spends on marketing? Obviously, it varies with their confidence in the title, but I'd like a ballpark figure.

Just out of my butt, I'd imagine no more than 2-3% of a first print run's maximum gross. That only gives about a grand for a 10k print run paperback.

I imagine most of their bookseller marketing is free: press releases, catalog listings, pre-order solicitation, that sort of thing.

Lauri B
06-24-2005, 05:40 PM
Does anybody know how much a publisher spends on marketing? Obviously, it varies with their confidence in the title, but I'd like a ballpark figure.

Just out of my butt, I'd imagine no more than 2-3% of a first print run's maximum gross. That only gives about a grand for a 10k print run paperback.

I imagine most of their bookseller marketing is free: press releases, catalog listings, pre-order solicitation, that sort of thing.

Publishers' marketing budgets vary widely, so I don't think you can give a ballpark figure or formula that will fit all of them. I'm not sure what you mean by "bookseller marketing is free." Nothing is free--all of those things cost money to create, produce, and distribute.

LloydBrown
06-24-2005, 07:43 PM
Publishers' marketing budgets vary widely, so I don't think you can give a ballpark figure or formula that will fit all of them. I'm not sure what you mean by "bookseller marketing is free." Nothing is free--all of those things cost money to create, produce, and distribute.

I'd think that they have a regular e-mail list of the buyers that they contact on a daily basis. Please don't tell me that book publishers exclusively use paper mail to contact the people they sell to regularly. E-mail doesn't have a postage cost.

E-mail out notices of upcoming releases.
E-mail notices of new releases along with short blurbs.
E-mail reprint notices.

That's several impressions that don't cost a thing, each of which has the impact of persuading a buyer.

I've also learned that most of this contact is by phone. Now I'd be willing to be that most (if not all) publishers count that phone cost as a utility and not a marketing charge.

There absolutely must be a top number in this figure. A publisher won't spend his entire net profit, not to mention his gross profit, in order to sell a book. That means he won't make any money.

If a print run can only earn a publisher $100,000 with a gross margin of $50,000, I know for a mathematical fact that no publisher will spend $50k in marketing. I doubt that they'll spend $25k, because with printing costs and the writer's royalties, that gross margin drops to 25k really quickly, and they still have fixed costs, too.

Hence my estimate that the number runs less than 10% of the first print run's gross. I imagine that publishers don't count on any reprints when doing financial planning--at least not for low-end stuff like 90% of what's out there, so all figures are based on the initial print run.

The low end has to come in somewhere. I suppose a publisher *could* simply release a book through distribution without promoting it in anyway. It won't sell very well. Do they do that?

On the other hand, as you mention, there are some associated costs. What are those? What tools might a publisher use? Is there an industry catalog or listing that offers ad space? How about incentives in the form of discounts for certain quantity purchases? POP materials?

Specifically, I'm interested in bookseller promotion, what's called "pushing" the product through the supply chain. "Pulling" the product includes targeted print ads in trade magazines or direct mail--customer-oriented advertisement. Get the customers to demand the book from booksellers.

I'm not looking for an exact dollar amount. I'm looking for a range. Not knowing a book publisher's contribution margin, I'm stuck guessing. I know that few companies spend more than 5% of gross revenues on marketing and those are direct sales business formats. So the rule of thumb bears out my intial math here.

One relevant question is "how much of a publisher's revenue comes from initial print runs?"

Sheryl Nantus
06-24-2005, 07:57 PM
I don't know if ANY publisher is going to tell you those numbers... I'd think it'd be more of a trade secret.

LloydBrown
06-24-2005, 09:45 PM
I don't know if ANY publisher is going to tell you those numbers... I'd think it'd be more of a trade secret.

I don't think it's so much of a trade secret as an embarrassing secret.

From what I can gather, the majority of the budget goes to potential best-sellers. Let's say 70% of the budget goes to 20% of the releases. That leaves 30% to be divided by 80% of the authors. Which is only fair since those bestsellers are going to be brining in huge revenue compared to the cost of acquiring them. I have no problem with that.

So the budget for stable but not best-selling first-timers runs, by various forumulae, from $500 to $1,800. If anybody with experience wishes to correct me without sharing anything that nobody wants shared, go for it.

You don't get a lot of national exposure on those numbers. That should include the price of your cover art, btw, bringing advertising costs down to well under $1,000.

Cathy C
06-24-2005, 11:03 PM
Well, of COURSE most of the promotion dollars goes to the front list books. Those books are most likely to pay the promotion dollars back to the publisher. What's that old saying? "Thowing good money after bad."



That's several impressions that don't cost a thing, each of which has the impact of persuading a buyer.
Uh, yeah they did. Someone composed the e-mail. Someone else composed the blurbs. Someone created & updated the list of e-mail addresses. All of those tasks are things that took the editors and publicists away from their primary duties. Every one of these tasks cost the publisher money in lost time from the primary duties.

But that's beside the point, because for the major players, it's not done by e-mail anyway. The bookbuyers for the major chains receive a package in the mail with all of the book covers and catalogs with loglines and blurbs to review. Then the publicist will schedule a meeting with the bookbuyers to "talk up" the new books in each imprint. The meeting is usually very short. The publicist has one chance, and about 40 seconds to explain each book, because with a hundred new books out for a season, and an hour-long meeting that includes several other discussion points . . . well, you do the math.

There's two terrific recent articles in the Book Standard that talks all about the duties of publicists and why authors haven't got a clue what really happens. You might drop by and read them:

http://199.249.170.139/bookstandard/community/commentary_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000956953

http://199.249.170.139/bookstandard/community/commentary_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000964495

They should hopefully answer some of your questions.

LloydBrown
06-24-2005, 11:43 PM
Well, of COURSE most of the promotion dollars goes to the front list books. Those books are most likely to pay the promotion dollars back to the publisher. That's exactly why I said "I understand" and "I have no problem with that."


Uh, yeah they did. Someone composed the e-mail. Someone else composed the blurbs. Someone created updated the list of e-mail addresses. All of those tasks are things that took the editors and publicists away from their primary duties.

Yes, you're right. Those would be labor costs. You still have a marketing budget. Where does that money go?


Every one of these tasks cost the publisher money in lost time from the primary duties.

Except for the publicist, whose primary duty IS sales.


But that's beside the point, because for the major players, it's not done by e-mail anyway. The bookbuyers for the major chains receive a package in the mail with all of the book covers and catalogs with loglines and blurbs to review. Then the publicist will schedule a meeting with the bookbuyers to "talk up" the new books in each imprint. The meeting is usually very short. The publicist has one chance, and about 20 second to explain each book

Here we go. Knowing that most "sales support" is a 20-second verbal squib is important, though. I'd like to know about the exceptions.


There's two terrific recent articles in the Book Standard that talks all about the duties of publicists and why authors haven't got a clue what really happens.

Yeah, that's informative for somebody else. I don't expect book tours or any of that nonsense. It's not appropriate for what I'm writing. I have perfectly realistic expectations. Judging from the tone of the articles, you seem to lump me in with people complaining about how publicists aren't selling their book right.

I'm not interesting in blaming anybody. I'm interested in selling books. I'm trying to understand exactly what tools are at their disposal and how the process works so that I can *help* them as much as possible. If it is feasible, I might be willing to promote my book somewhat myself--if I can find a method that is mathematically profitable.

For about $1,400, I think I can direct-mail a one-page color sell sheet to about 1,000 booksellers. Obviously, I'd like to time this sell sheet to arrive as close as possible before that publicist meeting. Depending on the book's final SRP, I probably only need as few as 700 additional sales to justify that cost. Between increased initial orders and improved success rate at the stores that were going to carry it anyway, that might be feasible.

LloydBrown
06-24-2005, 11:51 PM
And also, I understand where a large chunk of the marketing budget goes. It apparently doesn't go toward promoting any one title at the expense of the others. It goes toward promoting publisher sales overall. That is, the cost of the publisher catalog and the cost of maintaining a publicist in the field.

So, again, how does a publisher go about promoting one book over the others?

The more I understand about how the sales channel works, the better.

Cathy C
06-25-2005, 01:26 AM
Judging from the tone of the articles, you seem to lump me in with people complaining about how publicists aren't selling their book right.


I wasn't trying to lump you into anything. You said you believed that much of the promotion was done by e-mail. It's not. The point of the articles (at least why I sent it) wasn't the issue of complaining, but the description of the duties of the publicist. It's in there.


Except for the publicist, whose primary duty IS sales.


Correct, but copy writing is NOT sales. It's necessary, but an add-on duty that they sometimes get stuck with when the editor doesn't have time.

First, the promotion budget depends heavily on whether the book is hardback, trade paperback or mass paperback. As I understand the few publicity departments I've had contact with, it's much like any other corporation. Time spent in an 8-10 hour day is "billed" to various projects. If Line A has a budget of $30,000, then each hour spent on the project, or each product created is removed from the budget until it's gone. The budget for promotion includes time AND materials, so whether it's a hard cost of an advertisement in Publisher's Weekly, versus five hours spent in five meetings with bookbuyers, it's all the same budget. I haven't ever heard that it's a fixed percentage of the proposed sales, but I suppose it's possible at some publishers.

Since hardback books are the highest cost to produce, the incentive to promote the book is greater, so they get more dollars overall. Trade paperbacks are second, and mass paperbacks last.

ARCs are the primary item produced for the budget. They are sent in packages to magazines and newspapers in markets where the book is likely to sell. Next come cover flats, (not the art itself as a budget line item, but the production of the product). These are sent to booksellers and distributors. The "sell sheets" are on the back of the ARCs and the cover flats. It includes the "marketing bullets" of what the publisher is doing to promote the line or the book. The one from our latest ARC says:

Marketing Bullets:
National print avertising in Romantic Times Bookclub and Affaire de Coeur
National print publicity
Special Paranormal Romance Website
Local author signings
Major promotional efforts at Romance Writers of America conference
Promotional Materials Available
All covers will be foiled and embossed.

Then it lists the name of the publicist in charge, with phone, fax and e-mail.

They also produce color brochures of the books in the line for distribution to individual booksellers (not the buyers for the chains.) This is to encourage individual stores to purchase from the home office. They will also occasionally produce pens for bookmarks for an individual line (seldom for an individual book, though)


For about $1,400, I think I can direct-mail a one-page color sell sheet to about 1,000 booksellers. Obviously, I'd like to time this sell sheet to arrive as close as possible before that publicist meeting.

Now, why in the world would you want to step on the publicist's toes like this? You're shooting yourself in the foot by making them look like a fool, and making yourself look like a novice. The best thing you can do for promoting your book is to step OUTSIDE the official channels to sell to alternate markets they aren't reaching. Most publicists are happy to have an author contact them to find out what is planned for the book. You can then prepare an "Additional Marketing Plan" which will detail the efforts YOU intend to take to help sell your book. I already posted my marketing plan over in the "Ask the Editor" thread. I'll try to find the link.

That marketing plan was held up to the publisher as a model for other authors to follow, and we've been asked if they can submit it to others of their authors. Our efforts doubled our sales run due to distributor orders and end buyer pre-orders. Now, some authors don't believe in marketing separate from the publicity department, but I'm a big fan of it. However, the goal is NOT to step on the publicist's toes but, instead, to reach the markets that they don't have the time or money (and sometimes, the vision) to reach.

You can do lots of things that are separate from the publicists. You can reach book groups who specialize in the genre you write. You can approach additional web reviewers and extra newspapers that they might not have approached. Usually, in the galley stage, you can ask for a certain number of ARCs that you can send out yourself. We last requested 50 and I've sent out every one! I do postcards that I mail out to membership lists for writing organizations I belong to (in fact, I got two PMs when I first arrived on the AW forum that said they'd received the one I sent out just this month and planned to buy it!) I ask if the publicity department has any promotional goodies available. I was able to get 2,000 ink pens with the publisher's logo and website that I could place with MY bookmarks at conferences and conventions. No charge, and they shipped them at their cost. Half of those went in tote bags for the U.S. Census Bureau's annual convention -- again, along with a postcard about my book!

Go to conferences. Very often, representatives for the booksellers attend and are happy to meet with authors. THAT'S where you can interest them with a sell sheet.

I haven't tried posters or flyers yet, but there are a number of magazines that have special promotion tools available that will distribute items to bookstores where their magazine is carried. It's a small fee with big reach.

Just a few thoughts. But I really wouldn't jump in the middle of the publisher/distributor/bookseller dance. Someone's toes will get stepped on and you could easily earn more enemies than friends.

LloydBrown
06-25-2005, 01:41 AM
ARCs are the primary item produced for the budget. They are sent in packages to magazines and newspapers in markets where the book is likely to sell. Next come cover flats, (not the art itself as a budget line item, but the production of the product). These are sent to booksellers and distributors. The "sell sheets" are on the back of the ARCs and the cover flats. It includes the "marketing bullets" of what the publisher is doing to promote the line or the book. The one from our latest ARC says:

Marketing Bullets:
National print avertising in Romantic Times Bookclub and Affaire de Coeur
National print publicity
Special Paranormal Romance Website
Local author signings
Major promotional efforts at Romance Writers of America conference
Promotional Materials Available
All covers will be foiled and embossed.

Then it lists the name of the publicist in charge, with phone, fax and e-mail.

They also produce color brochures of the books in the line for distribution to individual booksellers (not the buyers for the chains.) This is to encourage individual stores to purchase from the home office. They will also occasionally produce pens for bookmarks for an individual line (seldom for an individual book, though)



Now that's the meat I've been looking for. Very informative.


The best thing you can do for promoting your book is to step OUTSIDE the official channels to sell to alternate markets they aren't reaching.
Now that I know more about what those channels are, I can.


That marketing plan was held up to the publisher as a model for other authors to follow, and we've been asked if they can submit it to others of their authors. Our efforts doubled our sales run due to distributor orders and end buyer pre-orders.

Then I'm definitely interested in it.



Usually, in the galley stage, you can ask for a certain number of ARCs that you can send out yourself.
Planning on it.


Go to conferences. Very often, representatives for the booksellers attend and are happy to meet with authors. THAT'S where you can interest them with a sell sheet.
More meat. Yum!


Just a few thoughts. But I really wouldn't jump in the middle of the publisher/distributor/bookseller dance.
Like I said, I'm interested in helping, not getting in the way. Thanks for the info. I'd appreciate that link if you've found it, too.

Cathy C
06-25-2005, 02:03 AM
Here's the link. It's about half-way down the page.


http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13586

LloydBrown
06-25-2005, 07:46 AM
Here's the link. It's about half-way down the page.


http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13586

That's outstanding.

jdkiggins
06-25-2005, 06:55 PM
Once again, Cathy, you have given some great advice and information here.

It always helps to hear from one who has several books in print and knows the process. Thanks!